Save our pubs

Anthony Browne, MP for South Cambridgeshire is calling on brewers and pub owning companies (pubcos) to cancel rent for tenants who have been forced to close their pubs due to the coronavirus crisis.

Speaking in support of the Cambridge and District Branch of CAMRA, Anthony is asking for pub owning companies across South Cambridgeshire to follow the example set by Everards, Adnams, Charles Wells, Admiral Taverns and others in cancelling rent for the time that the pubs are closed due to the shutdown.

Other landlords have only deferred collection of rent and ancillary charges, culminating in thousands of pounds being owed by tenants the moment they reopen to the public.

This risks turning temporary crises into permanent closures. Publicans may not be able to make up the shortfall for months of missed income, particularly for those with gardens depending on the current good weather to bring in custom, and some have been forced to consider closing permanently.

We need to make sure the pubs are there for us when this crisis ends.

Pubs across the constituency are affected by this, including the Three Horseshoes in Comberton, run by husband and wife team Caragh and Jim Urquhart.

In the last seven years, they have won local awards, been featured in CAMRA’s good beer guide and raised money for charity while running the last remaining pub in the village.

They have also paid rent to the ultimate owners of the pub, the Ei Group, based on their income. The group is now holding thousands of pounds in rent, insurance, cellar cooling and other costs over their heads and will expect a full payment plan when the Coronavirus crisis has been averted.

Anthony Browne MP commented: “It has never been easy to run a pub, and many villages are already left clinging to their last viable pub.

“In such an environment, it is unjust for pub owning companies to assume their tenants will withstand a complete loss of income in circumstances beyond all their control. We are all in this together. 

“It is time for those pub owning companies still holding out to show some compassion and support their tenants, who have been keeping local pubs going and turning a profit for them for many years.

“I’m also asking all South Cambridgeshire residents to get behind our pubs. Get online and share stories and news about your local pubs, to not only encourage pub owning companies to step up to the plate, but to ensure our pubs remain part of our community.”

Alistair Cook, Pubs officer for the Cambridge and District Branch of CAMRA, said: “Those companies who have already moved to ease pressure on publicans deserve to be praised, but others have left the sword of Damocles hanging over their tenant’s heads.

“Pubcos have claimed that the rates they charge are based on turnover. If that’s the case, then they shouldn’t be charging rent for weeks when a pub’s turnover is zero. They can’t have it both ways.”

Caragh Urquhart, of the Three Horseshoes in Comberton, added: “We have put everything into running this pub, and don’t want to give up now, but we are running out of options.

“My husband has lived here all his life, and we want to continue as part of Comberton, but if this crisis drags on we would never be able to take on such a debt and would have to shut our doors for good”